At a Tuesday public hearing on a
transgender protections bill in Massachusetts, lawmakers heard the
same old arguments used earlier in the year in North Dakota, Florida
and even neighboring New Hampshire.
The bill currently being debated in the
state's Judiciary Committee adds gender identity and gender
expression to the list of protected categories in the state's civil
rights and hate crime laws, protecting transgender people in the
areas housing, employment and public accommodations.
Proponents say the protections are long
“We're not asking for special rights,
and that's one of our messages. … I think that's the hardest part,
reminding people we deserve this,” Gunner Scott, executive director
of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), told gay
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a
long-time gay ally, says he supports the measure, calling it “a
very straightforward question of human and civil rights.”
But opponents of the bill say it should
be flushed down the toilet.
The Massachusetts Family Institute, a
group that opposes the bill, warns in a radio spot that the bill
would invite sex offenders to lurk in public restrooms, endangering
public safety. An old argument that has echoed throughout the U.S.
as municipalities and states look to protect transgender people.
“This is a bill that begins to
confuse the gender differences between men and women to the point of
trying to allow men to use women's restrooms, and, of course, that
means sexual predators going after young children,” Tom Minnery,
senior vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family Action,
said in a radio message urging North Dakota voters to oppose a
transgender protections bill.
“This is an invitation, it seems to
me, for people with predatory tendencies to come out and hide behind
the fact that they are having a transgender experience,” state Rep.
Peyton Hinkle, a Republican, said on the New Hampshire House floor
during debate on a similar bill that was ultimately approved by the
Voters in the college town of
Gainesville, Florida rejected a proposed initiative to eliminate all
gay protections after city leaders added “gender identity” to its
list of classes protected from discrimination. Members of the
Citizens for Good Public Policy argued that the gender clause allows
men to enter women's restrooms, endangering women and children.
Voters disagreed by a strong majority (58%).
In Massachusetts, Rep. Carl Sciortino,
the bill's sponsor along with state Senator Benjamin Downing,
dismissed the bathroom argument.
“Anyone that uses a facility to
commit a crime or does something indecent can be prosecuted under
current laws and this bill does nothing to change that,” he told
Transgender advocates say they remain
“cautiously optimistic” the 17-member committee will approve the